Proposed Budget Has Increases, Potential Pitfalls

The Obama administration today proposed a $49.7 billion budget for education, an increase of $3.5 billion in discretionary funds, which shifts much of those increases into competitive grant programs.

The proposed budget includes a total $3 billion increase for Elementary and Secondary Education Act programs. However, the plan would not increase Title I grants, the flagship program, but would increase the competitive programs, including $1.35 billion to continue Race to the Top grants, $500 million for the Investing in Innovation (3i) fund, increases to programs that focus on revamping failing schools, charters, school safety; and programs to prepare, retain, and reward good teachers and school leaders.

“Race to the Top taught us that competition and incentives drive reform,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “So even as we continue funding important formula programs like Title I and [the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act], we are adding money to competitive programs that are changing the landscape of our education system.”

In a conference call announcing the budget plan, Duncan expressed concern that the No Child Left Behind Act has encouraged states to “dumb down” their standards, thus creating a “race to the bottom.”

NSBA’s Executive Director Anne L. Bryant applauded the proposal’s “extraordinary infusion of money into pre-K and higher education,” but expressed concern about the emphasis on competitive grants and low-income districts’ abilities to compete for those grants. Many of those districts have the most to gain from the grants and are in the most need of extra funds, she said.

“We are heartened by the priority the administration is putting on K-12 education, and there is some true innovation and creative thinking in the budget plan released today. Given the economic realities our nation is facing this is a good start,” she said. “The focus on competitive grants and decision to provide no increase to Title I means rural districts and children in the poorest parts of the country will be left behind. Those districts do not have the capacity to compete for grants — unless you want to shift money from teachers to grant writers.”

According to the Education Department, the budget increases would include:

  • $539 million for innovative teacher and leader reforms such as performance pay, for a total of $950 million, and $269 million for teacher and leader recruitment and preparation, a total of $405 million;
  • $354 million for school turnaround grants, bringing the total up to $900 million;
  • $250 million for IDEA state grants, bringing the total to $11.7 billion; and
  • $197 million for programs designed to “promote a well-rounded education, supporting comprehensive literacy, STEM and other core subjects including history and arts.”

Joetta Sack-Min, Online Editor

Joetta Sack-Min|February 1st, 2010|Categories: Governance, School Boards, FRN Conference 2010, Educational Legislation, Federal Programs, Elementary and Secondary Education Act, Educational Finance, School Board News|Tags: |

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